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1. of, relating to, or characteristic of the common people, esp those of Rome
2. one of the common people, esp one of the Roman plebs



(1) A member of a class of free men in ancient Rome.

(2) A member of the lowest and poorest stratum of the population in the cities of Western Europe during the Middle Ages. Plebeians included impoverished guildsmen; unskilled workers and day laborers outside the guild system; vagrants, beggars, and other lumpen proletarians; and some journeymen. Plebeians became an especially important element in society as feudalism declined and capitalist relations arose. In this period the number of plebeians greatly increased and protoproletarian elements among plebeians began to play an ever-increasing role.

Owing to their heterogeneous social composition, the plebeians as a class behaved in various ways during social struggles. Although the lumpen-proletarian elements sometimes supported reactionary tendencies, the plebeians more often belonged to the left wing of popular movements. They were placed in an antagonistic position to the entire social system of the time by their total, or almost total, lack of property and by their difficult material circumstances. They were the main driving force in many of the urban revolts against the patriciate, the domination of the guild oligarchy, and burdensome taxation. Together with the poorest of the peasantry, the plebeians constituted the social base for movements that raised demands for egalitarian communism; these demands were put forth by leftwing Czech Taborites, the Anabaptists, and T. Münzer. The plebeians and peasants made up force that secured victory for the bourgeoisie in the early bourgeois revolutions.


Engels, F. “Krest’ianskaia voina ν Germanii.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch, 2nd ed., vol. 7.
References in periodicals archive ?
The plebeian "plants" from the production in the audience may, on some occasions be the only people in the yard to respond, although I suspect that there are always a handful of willing audience participants even when the response is most muted.
D A Paterson, by email | AS a Birmingham-born plebeian I am proud of my roots.
The first, 'The Political Moment of 1780', has four essays looking at the riots and their relation to the politics of war, the wider 'culture of petitioning', plebeian Dissenters and anti-popery, and the imperial perspective.
Most of the sports played anywhere in the world today are regulated by sporting bodies created by the products of British public schools and Oxbridge, during the Victorian eras, including that most plebeian game, football.
The subsidiary theme that drives much of the book's argument is the contention that the emergence of Gothic literature in this period represents both the demonization of the plebeian body and the resistance of that body when its claims to political expression were delegitimized by "official" discourses such as Edmund Burke's appeals to natural law, Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism, and Thomas Malthus's work on political economy.
Cummings, the art patron who presented priceless paintings to Chicago's Art Institute and New York's Metropolitan Museum, also brought the plebeian hamburger to Moscow.
An audible stylistic hybrid of bel canto and middle-period Verdi, but with characteristic flourishes all its own, Virginia--first performed in 1866 but completed some 15 years before that--tells the Livy-derived story of Virginia, the virtuous daughter of a plebeian soldier in fifth-century BC Rome, and the devious measures taken by the amoral patrician Appio to possess her.
The lesson I have learnt is that many political heroes I worshipped are nothing but plebeian street hood or neighbourhood goons.
Combining poignant vignettes that bring to life the hardships faced by plebeian children with sharp analyses of civil law and elite discourse, this study makes a major contribution to the burgeoning historiography of children in Latin America.
Vis-a-vis both the brave plebeian soldiers and the nameless
lt;p>"'Car' seems too plebeian for something that takes nine weeks to build and almost certainly costs more than $350,000," Wired's Chuck Squatriglia wrote.